Friday, December 16, 2011

The Creation of Trees

As the International Year of the Forest draws to a close, we are running the 'Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow' campaign. As part of the campaign, we have organized an exciting relay of events throughout December to spread awareness for a greener world. But, we also wanted to get a few of our friends to partner with us for this campaign. We've asked some of our publisher friends to write about their books, we've asked one of our blogger friends to share creative activities one could do with their kids, etc.

Maegan Chadwick-Dobson from Tara Books shares a Gond folk tale about the creation of trees and also sheds light on how nature forms a big part of the Gond narrative style.

Illustrated by :  Ram Singh Urveti

When Shankar Bhagwan, the creator, made the first man, there was no tree, no leaf on earth. The man said, “Lord, what will I eat? How will I live?” The creator pulled three hairs from his own body, and from them made three great trees. Then the man said “But lord, there are no fruits on these trees. Three will remain three, and three must die one day.” Then Shankar Bhagwan took the ash coating his matted hair and sprinkled the trees with it, and they began to flower and fruit. So in the days before we knew how to grow grain, it was trees that filled our stomachs with their fruit.

From the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India, the Gonds are a community of highly visual people. They surround themselves with their art, which is traditionally painted on the mud floors and walls of their houses. Art is a form of prayer, and they believe that good fortune befalls those whose eyes meet a
good image.

Gond art is not concerned with realism, perspective, light or three-dimensionality. It signifires rather than represents, deriving its energy from flowing lines, intricate geometric patterns and the symbols that connect human beings and workings of the cosmos. And since most Gonds used to be forest dwellers, trees loom large in their imagination.

Circumstances have changed the way they paint. The Gonds now paint on paper and canvas, using a
palette of commercial colours. Yet remarkably, even though many of them no longer live in the old
way, their imagination is still linked to the forest. The tree is at the heart of it, providing not just shade,
shelter and nourishment, but also a rich imaginative universe of narratives and beliefs.

You can buy 'The Night Life of Trees' here. Each painting in the book is accompanied by its own poetic tale, myth or lore – narrated by the artists themselves recreating the familiarity and awe with which the Gond people view the cosmos.

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